Simone Pianigiani, Montepaschi Siena

Feb 26, 2008 by Print
Simone Pianigiani - Montepaschi Siena In less than two seasons at the head of a bench, 38-year-old Simone Pianigiani of Montepaschi Siena has already established himself as a rising star in the European coaching ranks. The youngest head coach in the Euroleague swept to an Italian League title last year, while his team has completely dominated the domestic competition this season. He is also managing Montepaschi's return to the Euroleague in fine fashion, steering his team to second place in its regular season group and to an undefeated 2-0 record in the Top 16 as it waits to host defending champion Panathinaikos this week. Before that extra-special game, Pianigiani answered Fan Mail sent in from around Europe. "Nobody thought when the season started that Montepaschi would be playing such a game as this against Panathinaikos in the Top 16, with a one-victory advantage and no pressure," Pianigiani told "This is the kind of game all of us can enjoy: players, coaches and fans."

Dear Mr. Pianigiani, you've managed to put excellent individuals into a great orchestra playing wonderful basketball and transform Siena into an elite club alongside CSKA, Panathinaikos and Maccabi. What is your secret of getting strong individuals giving it all for the team?
Mitja Krizan - Ljubljana Slovenia

"It's difficult to say only one thing. There is not just one secret, but I think that all the parts make a contribution in building a good season. I obviously have good players, and first of all players with good mentality. Then, the organization of the club permits us to keep our concentration only on basketball and in the right way. In this, for sure, we work well. Then we can be ready to play face-to-face will all the top teams in Europe."

Mr. Pianigiani, how did the injury of team leader Rimantas Kaukenas affect team chemistry?
Simas - Lithuania

"Obviously, Rimas Kaukenas was a top player for us, a very important player, because of his experience in the Italian League and in Europe. He was not only a great scorer for us, but he had some qualities that are difficult to replace. So it was for sure a big problem for us to lose him. He is working now to recover, but we will let him do that in the right way at his own pace. I don't know if he'll be back at the end of the season. Maybe it's possible, or maybe he comes back stronger after the summer. For now, however, we have to think that we will be without him, and we try to make up for his loss as a team, by getting something more from each of the other players to replace some things he did for us. There is not one solution, but it's a question of everyone doing something more and something different than before."

Coach, you have had great success almost right away with Montepaschi. What was you philosophy when you became head coach last year and did you know you were ready?
Raul - Spain

"For sure, the most important thing for me is to try to work so that my team is better every day than the day before. I thought like that when I was a coach for young players. I think that at every level players can improve and can be better with their work day by day. My philosophy is to, first of all, pay attention to the small things and details. And I think when you have this kind of approach and concentration by the players, we are ready whenever we arrive on court to play. Second, obviously, is the general situation of the team. Every player has to put on court his best effort, starting from defense, because this gives the clearest signal that we can have about our desire, our approach and our mentality. Every day, from the preseason through the Italian League and the Euroleague, every time we are on the court for basketball, no matter for which competition, we have to put our best effort there. Even though sometimes we are tired, our main philosophy is that, win or lose, we put our best on the court every time in all practices and all games."

Simone Pianigiani - Montepaschi Siena Dear Mr. Pianigiani. I am a Virtus Bologna fan in the Italian League but a Montepaschi fan in the Euroleague. I hope you can honor Italian basketball by making it to the playoffs. Do you feel, as some of us do, that your team lacks a dominant center, and if so, is there a plan to consider one for next season? Best regards,
Paolo - Italy

"Right now, we are really focused on this season. I want to see the job through with the group I have. We have very good players who have great mentality. I think that if Rimantas Kaukenas comes back healthy, this same group can be something even better next year. They are players who work well together every day to be better. This group, to me, hasn't arrived at its top level yet. It can do something more and something better. I don't think about other players now. We will see in the summer. For now, we stay focused on this season."

Hi, Coach. Do you think the Italian League should introduce the "Russian model", meaning that two Italian players must be on court all 40 minutes in a game, in order to improve the competitiveness of our national players? Good luck for the future (except for the possible matches against Lottomatica Roma). Bye
Alessandro - Rome

"No, I don't think so. I don't think it's a good idea because then all coaches would have to change our point of view when have to manage the game. Usually, you consider the technical situation to manage a game. Now, with this rule, you would have to consider two points of view. You would have to stop thinking about the situation and think about the rules, and that's not the best way to manage the game. I think it's terrible. It's not sport. There is good sport when you can think of the best solutions with the players you have on the bench according to the team's tactical needs. With this kind of rule, however, the coach's job becomes different. I also don't think it is the way to build better Italian national players. I think we have to work with young players in the right way. Then, when the player is good enough, you choose him and give him a chance. He has to be ready to play in every country, so clubs or coaches can put him on the court without taking time to explain situations about life in general or other things. If he's good enough, you put him in. We have to work basically so that 18-, 19- and 20-year-old players become stronger, and then when they are good enough for the top level, anybody can sign him. I don't like rules that change completely the dynamics of the game."

Hello, Coach. Who are your top five players in the Euroleague now and from the last 50 years?
Adam Mikelewicz - Lithuania

"Over 50 years it is very difficult to choose because I think that five names are not enough. We would be keeping too many big players off the list. It's impossible, in fact. Even choosing five players from right now is difficult. Without being so exact, I can say it's logical that we think about players who have won the Euroleague or helped their teams to the top in Europe. I am thinking of CSKA players and Panathinaikos players mostly. They are the top players who have won the Euroleague or been to the Final Four and had their teams stay at the top for many years. Even so, I hope that list changes with the names of my own players, because many of them are first-year Euroleague players and I hope that in a short time we see new names at the top."

Bon giorno, Coach. Lithuanians are big fans of your team not just because of the fact that two of our finest exports are part of your team. Green is our national team color and your team's playing style, intensity on both ends, is our style also. What do you think about the transformation of your team after some of your key players were injured?
Bronislovas Balvocius - Kaunas, Lithuania

" Simone Pianigiani - Montepaschi SienaI am happy with the answer was that the other players have given me by trying to work stronger in practice. We didn't change anything special about our system, but I repeat that maybe we lost some points in our hands when Kaukenas and Ksystof Lavrinovic were out. We just tried to remain a team, to resist on defense and to be more of a team on offense, with good distribution on shots. The system is important, and the players staying in the system, believing in the system all season was most important for us. For this, I am happy. Every day, I come to the gym for practice and see a team that believes in its job and the system and practices hard. For sure, that's the best situation for a coach."

Good morning coach, We watched your practice early last week in Nerviano. You worked mainly on defense against Drew Nicholas, and we would like to know if, before every game, you give the most importance to the tactical preparation of defense against the other team's best scorer, or is that just an equal part of what you focus on. Good luck for the rest of the Euroleague,
Daniele and Ivan - Italy

"It's just one part. Mostly we try to arrive to the game with our rules, our system in place. We try to apply our system to overcome the opponent. But for sure, if there are special players or situations to consider, we have too look inside our system and adjust it to stop their best scorer. That's what I meant by adjusting details and small things. For sure, the day we practiced in Nerviano, our team was tired from an Italian League game the day before, and we had to fly afterwards, so it was not a long practice. So with a short practice, we focused on Efes Pilsen and adjusting our system to the opponent. The day after, our practice in Istanbul was completely about our own system, offense in general. In fact, I don't like spending a lot of time working on other teams. I prefer to make our team better every day and more confident in what we do, our solutions and our system. But, of course, you have to know the other team's keys, especially in this stage of the season, and put some attention on this."